Even before homeschooling, I was the kind of mama who tried to bounce a colicky baby on my knee while using the toilet (yes, I really did). I was the kind of mama who purchased and read, heaps of popular parenting books.
Self-care wasn’t a widespread discussion when I began parenting twenty-two years ago. Self-care wasn’t part of the title of any book, and it certainly wasn’t on my daily checklist. It is something I had to learn. I am still learning.
In this series, I help you understand why self-care is essential for homeschool moms through excerpts from my book, “Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer”.
In this excerpt from my book, I share why self-care is essential for homeschool moms, specifically YOU!
Even before my four children arrived, I wasn’t the kind of person that spent more than a minute walking through the drug store makeup aisle. I determined my lipstick colour in grade twelve. (Still going with that one — though I can only find it as Sephora’s Rum Punch). I learned to apply makeup by watching soap operas in the eighties. (I stopped watching soap operas, but I’m still going with those makeup techniques.)
When I felt my efforts weren’t good enough, I strove toward perfection, instead of accepting my aptitudes, efforts, and weaknesses.
- When I felt angry, I let my feelings rip (into whoever was nearest), blaming that person for my feeling instead of taking charge of that feelings.
- If I felt overwhelmed, I whipped myself into unreasonable expectations and whipped those around me into a frenzy too.
Self-care for my physical needs, my emotional needs, and my mental needs weren’t my instinct.
I gradually came to understand I needed to take care of myself so I could continue homeschooling with a happy heart, or a mostly happy heart.
When my children were little, self-care meant I aspired to independently use the toilet, and occasionally shower.
Now I have so many self-care strategies they could fill a book. (You may be reading an excerpt from it).
Early on, ignoring kids banging on the door was challenging.
Auspicious days meant showering and prepping food for me, and countless baby-latching hours sitting on the couch. Brushing my teeth was a gold star day. I had to save those 80s makeup techniques for the next decade.
However, I’ve learned that everyone needs self-care.
Just yesterday, my husband, a physician, returned from a shift in emergency, waved hello to my friend and me, and said he was going to the other room to engage in a little self-care. That comment sounded funny coming from his mouth. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him use that phrase, but after spending twelve hours assessing people’s needs, trying to be a peaceful presence in many anxious moments, he needed to decompress.
My husband’s version of self-care is a lot different than mine.
He’ll scan Twitter, exercise on the elliptical, lift weights, practice Chariots of Fire on the piano, run our dog up and down the hundred-foot driveway, chainsaw trees on our homestead, or play online chess.
Not one of those things would be on my list.
There’s not a profession out there that doesn’t demand a need for self-care.
I don’t claim to think self-care is more necessary for a homeschooling mama than a front-line emergency worker, an airline pilot, a line typist, or a restaurant hostess.
Different stressors, and different expectations, but if you’re human, you need self-care.
Unique to the homeschooling mama is the continuous stream of her children’s presence.
There are moments of pure gratification:
- watching the kids harmoniously engage,
- pursuing new interests,
- jumping hurdles,
- and being the cute kids we brought into the world.
Do you know what’s also ours? (I know you do.) A predictable, continuous stream of fledgling emotions, sibling bickering, complaining, distraction, and uncertainty in how to parent.
And you might have more to add to the list.
When my oldest was about eleven, I began to feel the creep of homeschool overwhelm.
- I was tired of the demands, and I was tired of my expectations, and the way we were doing things.
- For sure, I was just tired.
- I didn’t want to keep homeschooling if I felt miserable.
- Obviously, I had to find a way to build boundaries, build into myself, and feed myself too.
Self-care was a necessity, not an option.
I have homeschooled for almost two decades, through baby years, toddler years, adolescent years, and now the essay-checking University years.
You don’t have to tell me that you don’t know how to fit everything in. I get you, girlfriend.
You’re looking to take care of others, and you’re not taking care of yourself?
Some days you feel like Wonder Woman, understandably, but some days you collapse in bed with your teeth unbrushed, an ounce of chocolate, and a Netflix app, and wake up bleary-headed with your eye on the coffee machine.
When you replenish yourself, you have something to give. When you’re assuming this significant role, your kids need you to take care of you (then they’ll know how to take care of themselves later too).
When you take care of yourself, you are living your life fully.
And when you take care of yourself, you can enjoy the homeschool job. (Let’s clarify, you’re not going to love your homeschool job all the time. That’s not a thing.) But most of the time would be ideal.
The most important reason to take care of you is to healthfully engage your physical, mental, and emotional practices, so you can be purposeful in your homeschool mama role.
When I look back at the four significant homeschooling themes to which I have written, self-care is one of the largest.
Self-care hasn’t been my strong point: instead, I have overcompensated for others’ needs, made sure they were happy first, and if they weren’t, I tried very hard to work toward their happiness.
(Which, as you know, is unrealistic, and also, not the goal of parenting.)
Try as any parent might, we are easily consumed by our oft-repeated uncomfortable emotions.
We have our heartstrings tied to our children’s successes and failures, to their struggles and joys, to their disharmony and harmony.
When we take care of ourselves, we can respond from a healthy place.
We then can distance our children’s fledgling emotions from our egos, our sense of well-being, because quite simply, though they might have arrived through our womb, they are not us.
- Their choices are theirs.
- Their struggles are theirs.
- And their developmental stage is theirs.
- The unique stamp of personhood and its purpose in the world is theirs.
We are not the main character on their stage. We are the main character on our stage. Our child is the main character on their stage.
However, we desire to hold their challenges though they are all ours. This is a constant temptation for the engaged parent.
As homeschooling parents, we are most definitely engaged parents. So, we must take care to guard against hovering and helicoptering, co-depending, or controlling, which don’t benefit the kids anyway and takes way too much from ourselves.
The most powerful things I have learned as a homeschooling mama are…
- to learn what I need,
- learn who I am,
- and what makes me tick,
- what I’m interested in,
- what energizes me,
- and most definitely,
- what triggers uncomfortable feelings in me.
Triggers of all sorts.
- Repetitive loud noises when someone is asleep in the house.
- Kids who complain when asked to help bring in groceries.
- Kids are not willing to get into the car when we need to get somewhere,
- or kids don’t want to practice violin even though they begged to play.
- consistent replenishing so we have something to give
- greater capacity to be present more of the time
- self-understanding of our triggers and learning to respond to them well
- a perspective that our challenges are normal
- release from being responsible as homeschool mama all the time
Our goal is to experience an abundant homeschool life, the charmed life.
We’ve got places to go, groceries to buy, percentages to explain, shirts to fold, and lessons to plan, so let’s accept that self-care should also be on our essential to-do list.
“My homeschooling journey has included a growing pile of books that I have read, browsed, or barely got past the first chapter. This book is just delightful and a gem! It’s not only helpful and inspiring but also funny. The author is like that no-nonsense brave friend who is looking out for you and your well-being as a homeschooling mama. We all need that friend and I am taking my time as I work my way through the chapters and enjoying it all. I love the section on overcoming overwhelm, grappling with perfectionism, and minding and working through our emotions. This book is worth its weight in gold. Find a quiet place to read, bring a warm cup of tea, and enjoy!”–Sonia in S. Jersey
People also ask:
- Where do I sign up for the Homeschool Mama Book Club?
- Tell me where to find your Homeschool Mama Reading List.
- How to homeschool without losing your mind in 11 Steps
- why kids don’t need school socialization & why they need you instead
- I’m a new homeschooler, are you able to walk alongside and mentor me?
- Do you offer other coaching too? Why, yes I do!